کراچی: آئی پی ایل دسویں ایڈیشن کے سنسنی خیز میچز ’’جیوسوپر ‘‘پر براہ راست نشر کیے جا رہے ہیں            کراچی : لا لیگا کے سنسنی خیز میچز پاکستان کے پہلے اسپورٹس چینل’’جیوسوپر‘‘پر براہ راست نشر کئے جا رہے ہیں            
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The Greek miracle
Tuesday, July 05, 2016
by Ijaz Chaudhry
The UEFA European Championships also called the Euros is generally regarded as the toughest football tournament for the national sides. World Cup often has teams just to make the numbers because of the continental quota representation.

Denmark’s fairytale success in the 1992 Euros is now part of football’s folklore. They won the title despite having failed to originally qualify. Only made to the finals as the last minute replacement to the erstwhile Yugoslavia who were barred due to the civil war, ultimately resulting in the breakup of the country.

The Euros 2004 witnessed another Cinderella story. Greece, had only once previously qualified for the UEFA Euro, in 1980, where they failed to win a single game. In 2004, they were ranked 19th in Europe at the time and 13th among the 16 teams qualified.

Greece caused sensation on the opening day, defeating hosts Portugal 2-1. Giorgof Karagounis put the Greeks ahead after only seven minutes, and Angelos Basinas made it 2-0 from the penalty spot on 51 minutes. An injury time goal from Cristiano Ronaldo was a mere consolation. Next, they drew the second ranked Spain 1-1. Hence, the underdogs achieved very good results in the first two matches. Still, before the last round of the matches in Group 1, three teams — Greece, Portugal and Spain — were very much in the race for the top two spots in the pool so as to qualify for the quarter-finals. Their third group tie was against Russia, ranked 18th in the continent and having lost to both Portugal and Spain. Going into the match, Greece were most people’s favourites. But to their horror, Russian went two goals up within 17 minutes. Greeks fought back and pulled one back just before the half time. But it stayed 1-2 when the 90 minutes ran out. Now their fate depended on the match between Portugal and Spain played concurrently. The hosts managed to defeat Spain 1-0 to top the pool with six points. While Greece and Spain both ended with four points. Even the goal difference was the same. Greece scrambled through on having scored more goals than Spain.

So Greece were in the quarter-finals. Here, they came across France. The winners of group B were not only the number ranked side of Europe but also the defending champions. Angelos Charisteas’s 65-minute goal sent the defending champions crashing out of the competition. It was reported by media as the “biggest shock of UEFA EURO 2004 so far”. Moreover, it was their first ever victory over France. Zagorakis, sprinting down the right flank, cleverly flicked the ball beyond Lizarazu and sent over an excellent cross for Charisteas. His header, from near the penalty spot, had textbook perfection giving French goal-keeper Barthez no chance as the ball flashed past him.

The Greek party had only started. They encountered Czekh Republic in the semi-finals. The Czekhs, the runners-up of 1996 Euros, among the pre-tournament favourites, were flying high in Portugal. They had a perfect record in the event till then. They were the only side to win all the three group games that included victories over Germany and the Netherlands in the so-called group of death. Then they pulverised Denmark 3-0 in the quarter-finals. Their star-studded side included illustrious names such as Petr Cech, Marek Jankulovski, Vladimir Smicer, Karel Poborski, Tomas Rosicky, Pavel Nedved and Milan Boris.

Inside the first two minutes, Tomas Rosicky volleyed against the woodwork. After an uncertain start, the Greeks dug out. It turned out to be a wonderful contest but the goal remained elusive. After 90 minutes, it was 0-0. It was still scoreless as the end of the first half of the extra time loomed. Suddenly the goal that continued the unbelievable Greek journey arrived throughTraianos Dellas who steered in a header at the near post off a Vassilios Tsiartas taken corner. Thus their victory came via Silver Goal. For the first time in an international football tournament, the silver goal system was applied, whereby the team that led the game at the half-time break during the extra-time period would be declared the winner.

How the win arrived, didn’t matter to a jubilant nation. More than 100,000 people converged to Athens Omonia Square to celebrate. Victory reverberated across the world; ex-pats stopped the traffic in Sydney, Australia.

For the first time in a major football tournament, the last match featured the same teams as the opening match as Greece came across Portugal. The hosts too had to fight their way to the final. They had a nerve wrecking semifinal against England, decided on penalties. Then in the semifinals they defeated the formidable Netherlands 2-1. For many, it was the finest national side of Portugal assembled since the Eusebio’s team of mid 60s. The side had some of the greatest names in country’s history including Luis Figo and Cristiano Ronaldo. And the man in charge was none other than Luiz Scolari, who had guided his native Brazil to the World Cup title just two years back. But Greece were happy with the underdog tag.

Portugal enjoyed most of the early exchanges and also created chances but the Greeks doggedly held on. After a Pauleta attempt early in the second half was well blocked by Greece, unthinkable happened. As in the quarter final, it came off a corner. Angelos Charisteas climbed over his marker Costinho to head into goal from a close range. It was only 57 minutes. Portugal’s vaunted attack probed Portugal’s defence which held on as it had done quite a few times in the tourney.

Many rated Greek’s triumph at the 2004 Euros as one of the biggest shocks in the history of the beautiful game.

Celebrations took place all over Greece and the world. The Greek diaspora came together and celebrated through the night in Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

As CNN summed up: “No team in a World Cup or a European Championship have done what Greece have done here. They have beaten the host nation (Portugal) twice, knocked out the holders (France), beaten the favourites (Czech Republic) and won the tournament with a foreign coach (Germany’s Otto Rehhagel)”.
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